|Point and shoot kinda gal, Flickr|
"Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate." (Victor LeBeau, Retail Analyst Post WW II)
It's happened again: a friend just told me about a successful lawyer who quit her practice, moved to a smaller town, and started writing cookbooks.
It seems like we are experiencing a different kind of brain drain these days: smart, successful people quitting their jobs to do something less prestigious, less stressful, more meaningful... even if that means letting go of a certain status, of a higher income and of good benefits In some cases, even if it means letting their diplomas gather dust.
Parallel to that (and often entangled with it) is the new tendency to simplify and downsize materially (as in: less having, less doing, more being).
As a general phenomena, this trend has a few different names:
- Simple living
- Voluntary simplicity
- And the occasionally associated nomadism (living on the road, living on the sea)
What those all have in common is that they aim at escaping the consumerist-based lifestyle, this never-ending loop in which you work, consume, work, consume, and rarely take (or find) the time to just BE:
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it." (Ellen Goodman)
People who move toward such disencumbered lifestyle are looking for a life that is simpler, lighter, more meaningful. This can take various forms and can be applied to various areas at various intensities.
Other than letting go of a demanding, unfulfilling job (or go part-time, or work from home), some become environmentally-friendly to the bone, live off the grid, or adopt a perpetual globe-trotter lifestyle. Some opt for drastic downsizing and get rid of most possessions. Some embrace thrifting, and barter goods and services. Most choose to live with less (sometimes very little) money and/or stuff, and less structured activities.
- To lower stress and improve health: a lot of us are overwhelmed by all our responsibilities and the pressures put on us, and realize it doesn't have to be that way... especially when our health is suffering from it;
- To put priorities in order: a lot of us feel that they are sacrificing the important (e.g. family, social life, creative activities, physical activities, contact with nature) to pursue the unimportant (a big title and a big paycheck, or simply a job we don't like);
- To pursue a dream: a lot of us have a dream on the back of our head that we have put on ice in order to pursue more mainstream, approved and sometimes acclaimed endeavors;
- To help the environment and the rest of the world: a lot of us realize that our consumerist lifestyle does not occur in a vacuum, and is detrimental to both the planet and other, less fortunate human beings.
Longing to have an impact on the world?
Well, guess what... you already have one.
Just not the one you were thinking about.
Watch this fantastic video to learn all about it:
I am one to believe that simplifying our lives can only do us good. However, I am not one to build my own house and raise goats. I have fantasized over a life on the oceans, but I don't have the guts (and D does not have sea legs). Never mind those obstacles, I think moving away from a consumerist life and toward a simpler life can be beneficial for me. And so can it for you!
You don't have to be particularly skillful, or a vegan, or a bohemian (although those are great!) You don't have to live an ascetic life in a monastery (but why not?) You don't have to be unusually wealthy or completely broke (although people from everywhere on this continuum go for the simple lifestyle). You don't need to become an extreme couponing adept (blah). You don't have to let go of all luxury (oh no!). You only have to find your own, personal, unique recipe to simplicity.
Simplicity is like drinking water: if you've never really done it, you might find it tasteless at first... but get used to it and you will discover that it is much more fullfilling, and much lighter at the same time, than all the alternatives (juice, pop, alcohol, coffee).
On top on saving money, your health and the planet, having a simpler life could help you:
- Find serenity, feel free, liberated, and fulfilled in a way that materialism cannot fulfill you;
- Reconnect with yourself, find your center and live according to your core values and priorities;
- Reconnect with others: "Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people." (Elizabeth Green)
- Reconnect with the universe: amazing things will start happening, or more precisely, you will start to notice amazing things you didn't notice before. For example, when I came out of the gym the other day, it had rained, and I noticed the dampness of the air and the smell of the water on the asphalt. I liked it. I paused to BE in the moment.
In the next post, we will study more in depth the HOW of simplifying our lives. Until then, tell us:
How do YOU simplify your life, and how does it make you feel?